Why HERO Failed

Why HERO Failed

An expatriate's perspective on Houston's blunder
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I am a Texan, born and raised. I am very proud of this fact. I'm even prouder of the fact that I'm a Houstonian. We have a rich history (literally and figuratively), our food can't be beat, and we gave the world Beyoncé Giselle Knowles.

"H-Town, comin' comin' down" - Almighty B

And despite my deep sense of pride for my city, I can still be disappointed by it. Take, for example, the recent repealing of HERO (Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance). The ordinance, which prohibited discrimination in housing and employment (among other things) based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and, most emphasized in the media, sexual identification, was repealed in a 61 to 39 percent vote.

The reasons it failed are simple: lies and transphobia.

Conservative city leaders (and my governor, Greg Abbott) blatantly lied to the people of Houston, misinforming them on a crucial piece of legislation. The entirety of HERO was reduced to one simple point: "men in women's bathrooms." The idea of a burly, tatted-up biker waking up one morning, saying "I'm a woman now!" and walking into a woman's restroom to do whatever he pleases struck terror in the hearts of many sad, simple voters. It became a joke to some, an all-too-real threat to others, and many failed to do their research, allowing men who believe that Jesus is one of the three branches of government to speak on their behalf and to sway their opinions in favor of discrimination.

They're here to use the potty.

What many failed to realize is that this ordinance affects so many more than transgendered people. The first paragraphs of the ordinance reads:

"Whereas, the City Council finds that all persons living in, working in, or visiting the City are entitled to be treated with equal dignity and respect and have to right to be free from discriminatory and unequal treatment; and

Whereas the City of Houston seeks to provide an environment that is free of any type of discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy ("Protected Characteristics")"

It's an anti-discrimination law. It's a piece of legislation advocating for equality among everybody. Houston literally went to the polls to strike down equality.

I'm all for supporting individual rights. If a business owner wants to refuse service to an African-American or a lesbian, it's their right as an American and a private business owner. They're plain dumb (the only color I see is green $$$) and they should be ashamed of themselves, but that's their decision and I wholly believe that they're allowed to stick to their guns, which, in Houston, is a literal right. However, what I refuse to accept in our society, and in my city, is ignorance. The refusal to learn. The refusal to do your homework in order to understand what you're voting on and permitting religious figures to influence your opinion as a voter.

And before anyone attacks me with "well what if they did do their research and they collectively decided that it wasn't in their best interest?", the fact that the official battle cry of the opposition was "no men in women's bathrooms" tells me, in spades, that they did not take the time to understand the ordinance.

I love my city with all my heart and soul, and I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised. After all, this is the city that took so long to integrate its schools that it had to be forced by a federal judge to pick up the pace in 1970 (you know, almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education). Houston has never been and most likely will never be seen as progressive, why would they start now? If every Houstonian who voted against Proposition 1 checked the facts and made an informed decision, I wouldn't be nearly as angry as I am now. I can tolerate hate winning at the polls, but stupidity and fear-mongering should lose every time.

Should an occasion or a piece of legislation like this one be voted on again, I implore all of my fellow Houstonians to think. For the love of God, stop listening to your pastor and think for yourselves. You're an individual and you have power in our political system. Use it. Our Heavenly Father won't be waiting for you in the parking lot with a switchblade if you vote yes on something that will reduce (criminalize?) discrimination. From what I've read in the Bible, that's the kind of stuff that makes Him happy.

And if all that isn't enough to change your mind, keep in mind that Dallas has already passed a similar ordinance. Are y'all really going to let Dallas one-up us? Get it together, H-Town.

Think. Vote. Change. Please.

Cover Image Credit: http://images1.houstonpress.com/imager/u/745xauto/7872398/9792940.0.jpg

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Sociolinguistics Series: Part 50

Language is a powerful tool.

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It's part 50--halfway to 100! I'm so glad to still be here writing! In this section, we will talk about Dr. Shikaki's findings on how Palestinians view the state of Israel.

25 years ago, 85% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution. 10 years ago, this number decreased to 70%. Dr. Shikaki believes this was due to an increase in the prominence of Islamism in Palestinian society during the second intifada; Islamists were opposed to the two-state solution. In the most recent survey, the December 2018 one, only 43% of Palestinians supported the two state solution.

In 2000, American President Bill Clinton met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat at the Camp David Summit to come up with a solution to the conflict. It ended without an agreement, but in December of 2000, Clinton once again proposed a resolution: the Clinton Parameters.

The content of the Parameters basically allowed Israel to annex settlements while Palestine to take 94-96% of the West Bank, as well as Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. There were other guidelines regarding territory, refugees, security, and the end of the conflict. Essentially, the West Bank would have been split up by Israeli roads and settlements--which is kind of the reality today.

Both the Israeli government and Arafat accepted the terms with reservations, and Arafat wrote to Clinton a letter asking for clarifications on the terms. Clinton and Dennis Ross, an envoy of the Parameters, publicized that Arafat had refused to accept the terms; they painted Palestinians in a negative light, saying that Israel wanted to accept the peace negotiations but Palestine did not.

American Lawyer Robert Malley was at the Camp David Summit and oversaw parts of the Clinton Parameters. In 2001, he said that three myths had come out of the failure of both negotiations, and that these three myths were dangerous to any future peace processes if people kept believing in them.

These myths are as follows: "Camp David was an ideal test of Mr. Arafat's intentions," "Israel's offer met most if not all of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations," and "The Palestinians made no concession of their own."

He said that these three statements were not true but very heavily publicized by America and Israel after the negotiations failed; rather, there is more nuance to each of these issues, and America and Israel have just as much responsibility in the failure of the Summit and Parameters as Palestine did. Malley wrote, "If peace is to be achieved, the parties cannot afford to tolerate the growing acceptance of these myths as reality."

Anyway, what does this have to do with Dr. Shikaki? He polled Palestinians not only on the their attitudes to the two-state solution, but the Clinton Parameters as well. 25 years ago, there was 60% support for the Clinton Parameters by Palestinians, but the June 2018 poll showed that the number had gone down to 37%.

The last ten years shows a significant decrease in public support for both the two-state solution and the Clinton Parameters, and it could be a result of disagreeing with specific parts of the proposals (such as how the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock or Jerusalem is delegated).

I did some further digging when I got home, and I found this data from the UN Division for Palestinian Rights website:

"A 25 December [2000] published poll found that 48% of the 501 Israelis questioned were opposed to the proposals; 57% would object to Palestinian control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound; 72% were against even a limited return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. A 29 December published poll found that 56% of the Israelis would oppose a peace agreement reached on the basis of the Parameters."

This shows that though public media--especially Western media--may have painted the Palestinian government as the villain (and Israel and America as the "victims"), the proposals accepted by either government had varied support among its people.

The Israeli civilian population did not want to accept the Clinton Parameters because of the way certain things would be resolved; their reservations lie with the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque because the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in the world for Jews, would have been given to Palestine, while Jews would have control of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (which is the status quo).

In addition, there was a section in the Clinton Parameters that dealt with the right of return for Palestinians, where there would be a certain number of Palestinian refugees who settled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while other Palestinians either would become citizens of their host countries, move to a third-party country, or settle back into the land that is Israel Proper (with permission from the Israeli government, of course); many Israelis did not support this.

That was the public opinion years ago. Today, there is even less support for these proposals. Dr. Shikaki outlined three issues as reasons for a decrease in support of compromise, which we will cover in the next section. Stay tuned!

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